HYuj Matters - Pouring Out Spirits As Sound

Five of us are crammed into the back of a van en route to Ntate Moholo Credo Mutwa’s home. The air is jovial and easy while we negotiate our legs around one another; careful not to break the delicate instruments we are accompanying. The night before I was performing on the same stage as Sesonke and Abongile at a magazine launch. They are the two spirit minds behind an annual magazine called Ispili. On this three hour ride from Kimberly to Kuruman we take a detour and have the honour of visiting the Wonderwerk cave which doesn’t usually open on Sundays but today it has been opened for us through the help of kind spirits. We enter the mouth of this rock structure carrying instruments and an air of stillness within us that matches the quiet and cool innards of the cave. Motionless quietness envelopes us between our guide’s informative talks as if everyone knows we are here to listen to the rock, to speak without moving lips and listen with ears not found on anatomy models. We get to the belly of the cave and everyone sits, voice recording is activated on phones and jaw harp sends vibrations ricocheting between Sisonke’s mouth, the rock surface and our inner eardrums. Soon a hypnotic drum joins in played by Abongile and Ernie’s Karimba hypnotically hops onto the rising energy. A cave comes to life with the sound of prayer.

In studying meditation techniques, I learned about chanting certain sounds to stimulate everything from different glands to different parts of the brain or chakras. I also learned of binaural beats and have used these different aids to note the effects they have on my general mood. I take time out to also listen to different elements and how they manifest as sounds in nature: the sound of running water, the sound of wind blowing against different objects, dust swirling or the sound a large fire makes in the dead of night eating away at logs of wood. Sound is everywhere around and when one listens really well you can hear the sound of your own rapid heartbeat or the grumbling sounds your belly makes. Being an insomniac means I can listen in for long periods on my children breathing in their sleep or note the changes that happen when relaxed and had often gently coaxed my partner from nightmares simply from noting shifts in her breathing.

I love sound, more specifically sounds that bring the mind to the present moment where one can’t help but sink into a sense of contemplative peace at the simple things that don’t need you to reach but simply surrender. The Tibetan bowl is my current favourite instrument to access such spaces: A never ending loop of reverberating sound where low or high pitched tones can induce different states of presence. I guide my son (11) and daughter (6) through meditation and have noted how easily they took to its effects during meditation. To follow certain sounds while accompanied by breath, walking towards their stillness while watching their minds display the many distractions it brings to their attention has been a pleasure to teach and also lose my self through.

I speak with reverence because of how sound isn’t only used to communicate through words but drums can be used to coax parts of us that need healing, wind instruments can soothe parts of us that need realignment and even Karimba sounds can touch parts of us we have neglected to simply acknowledge. I experienced the healing power of sound not only in a cave in seated meditation guiding my little ones but felt it when I was at Ntate Moholo Mutwass home. I saw him come to life from his frail state. In his home I saw how indigenous sound is the language of a God transmuting her form through different vibrations the way certain codes express themselves depending on the type of hardware they are expressed through. A yoking of spirit with matter, of merging mind with heart through patterns at times never to be recorded on musical sheets. I found Yoga in indigenous sounds and am eternally moved by the stillness found.